Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Leaving Drinks

The Centre Page - Thursday 22nd December 2016

29 Knightrider St, London EC4V 5BH

Now, I am not one for drinking at lunchtime but as my colleagues wanted to buy me a beer before I finished my contract with them I couldn't refuse. There was just a small coterie of us (my immediate team only) and as I was due back at work afterwards I decided to go for a weak session ale or I would have fallen asleep at my desk.

Beers drunk on this visit :
1) IPA (3.6%) - Green King Brewery, Bury St Edmunds, Surrey - an easy drinking session IPA

This beer, along with London Pride and Doom Bar seem to come in for a lot of criticism due to their "blandness". I actually don't mind these beers as they are all easy drinking and not too strong, so if I was out on a big session I could stick to them all night without getting bored due to "lack of taste" (like I would do with lager). I do have a few issues with Doom Bar, but that is more due to a few dodgy pints I have had recently that have put me off it a bit (fault of the pub staff rather than the beers or brewers themselves). I have had a few pints recently that have been back up to the mark though, so my faith is partially restored in this ale.

Greene King have run a few surveys with younger drinkers recently and found that these types of beers are ideal for newcomers to the real ale market. Rebranding of these ales has seen sales of these three beers outstrip most other real ales and as a result real ale sales are now outpacing lager sales, so his cannot be a bad thing. Hopefully these beers will act as feeders to more complex ales in the future and thus keep the British beer and ale market alive. It is good to see that real ale is now attracting younger drinkers, especially young women, who fancy something a bit different to the sweet and cloying alco-pops that are normally aimed at that part of the drinks market.

Christmas Drinks

Christmas Drinks - Tuesday 20th December 2016

MB, SH and I decided to meet up and grab a few beers before Christmas. I usually try to catch up with most of my friends just before the holiday season, but some years are more difficult than others. This year proved to be a bit thin on the ground for celebratory drinks, but I am not one for missing out on a good time when one presents itself. We were thinking of where to meet up as we were all coming from different directions, so I suggested the recent old faithful of Ye Olde Cock Tavern on Fleet Street.

Ye Olde Cock Tavern
22 Fleet St, London EC4Y 1AA

As I was coming straight from work I wanted somewhere that sold wholesome, filling meals and this pub has not disappointed in the past. Unfortunately for us, the pub had just taken a 100 place setting for a party of tourists just before we arrived and the kitchens would not be available to customers for at least one and a half hours. I can understand the business sense of this, so do not blame the pub for my empty stomach. We had to settle for some bar snacks (a vaiety of peanuts) instead.

The beers were up to their usual standards, but as there was not food available, we only stayed here for a couple before we moved on to find another pub.

Beers drunk on this visit :
1) Canberra (4.1%) - Windsor & Eton Brewery, Windsor - a chestnut coloured ale with a chocolatey flavour
2) Runner (4.0%) - Truman's Brewery, London - a dark chestnut chocolatey session ale
The Cheshire Cheese
5 Little Essex St, London WC2R 3LD

Not to be confused with the Crutched Friars pub (close to one of the Bavarian Beerhouses frequented on a reasonably regular basis) of the same name, or the more famous of its namesakes Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street just down the road, this little gem of a pub hidden down a side-street betwixt Feet Street and Old Father Thames oozes olde worlde charm; plenty of memorabilia on the walls and wooden beams everywhere, as well as a very wide variety of ales on tap.

Again, unfortunately, their kitchens had closed by the time we got there, so we had to carry on drinking on an empty stomach. However, the selection of beers was more than enough to take our minds off our hunger (which we sated with traditional Cornish pasties later at Charing Cross station). I was particularly taken by the St. Austell lager offering - Korev, which apparently just means "beer" in Cornish. I only had a half but it was very tasty for a lager (presumably because it was brewed by a traditional brewery rather than mass-produced junk); 160 years in the making, according to their website, I guess they were bound to get it right.

Beers drunk on this visit :
1) Surrey Nirvana (4.0%) - Hogsback Brewery, Tongham, Surrey - a golden, citrusy, hoppy ale
2) Korev (4.8%) - St Austell Brewery, St Austell, Cornwall - a strong lager from a traditional ale brewer

Seasonal Siesta

Mixteca Mexican restaurant - Thursday 8th December 2016

3 Royal Oak Rd, Bexleyheath DA6 7AD

This restaurant has only been open for a few weeks, so MB and I decided to pay it a visit, mainly for the food but also to see what world beers that they might have on offer. It was not very busy in there but half-a-dozen tables were booked. The waiting staff were very attentive without being claustrophobic and it was easy to strike up a banter with them.

We were both quite hungry so plumped for a starter and a main course. We both had a large portion of  nachos that were suppsoedly for 1-2 people (I went for pulled pork) to start, the size of which alone would have been enough for me for the evening. However, the avocado salad burger was very tasty when it arrived and I managed to finish most of that (I left most of the fries as I just did not have the room). MB had the same problem as me, his burrito was the size of a small pillow and would have fed three people easily.

The food was of very good quality and the portions were large, so if you have a big appetite and fancy some tasty Mexican fare when you are on your travels in Bexleyheath, pop into Mixteca and grab a table.

Now, onto the beers. They stocked all the usual Spanish/Mexican bottle beers but there were a few on their menu that I had not tried before. I am not really a lager drinker, but with a meal I can make exceptions, especially if they are from far flung places around the world.

Beers drunk on this visit :
1) Pacifico Clara (4.5%) - Grupo Modelo SA de CV, Mexico City, Mexico
2) Modelo Esepeciale (4.5%) - Grupo Modelo SA de CV, Mexico City, Mexico

The Kings Arms

When we finished our meal, we still had an hour or two left of the evening, so MB and I decided to head back to our regular haunt (which we had not been to in several weeks) The Kngs Arms. We had a couple of Guinnesses and a good natured telling-off by the bar staff not to leave it so long between visits again.

The Furze Wren

The Furze Wren - 1st December 2016

Broadway Square, 6 Market Pl, Bexleyheath DA6 7DY

MB and I have not been out locally for a while. We have pretty much stopped going to The Kings Arms for our evening of Guinness and rock music; we have had to find pubs local to where I work due to the late hours I have been working over the last few months.

However, time constraints aside, we both fancied a more local trip this evening, so decided upon the Furze Wren. They had a lot on offer again this evening but for some reason Wetherspoons always seem to stock the really strong beers in quantity but few of the session ales that I am beginning to get a preference for due to my waning tolerance to alcohol.

We both ate before going out so we did not get round to having a curry this evening, which didn't turn out too bad as it saved us a bit of money for the Christmas period that was about to arrive.

Beers drunk on this visit :
1) Santa's Slayer (4.0%) - Banks & Taylor Brewery, Shefford, Bedfordshire - a golden IPA winter-style ale
2) Stone Cold (4.7%) - Lyme Stone Brewery, Stone, Staffordshire - a copper coloured malty seasonal ale
3) Old Buzzard (4.8%) - Cotleigh Brewery, Wiveliscombe, Somerset - a dark red, biscuity ale

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Christmas Day

Christmas Day Reflections - 25th December 2016

I have been lax again at updating the blog, but I have still been visiting the pubs and making a few notes about them and the beers they serve. I have a few more entries to input over the next day or two, but the slackness of Christmas Day after dinner, whilst the wife and father in law sleep off their excess and the kids play in their rooms, has allowed me to get to the keyboard and knock out a few entries in order to try to catch up.

I have noticed recently my drinking habits have changed quite a bit. I am running (another of my hobbies along with wargaming, reading comics and enjoying beer) a lot more these days and in order to get my times down I have also been on a bit of a diet (mainly just watching what I eat and eating less of it). This has resulted in my tolerance to alcohol dropping considerably. Whereas I might have enjoyed four or five beers over an evening (a mixture of pints and halves) a few months ago, I can now only manage a maximum of three beers. Not such a bad thing I guess health wise, but it means I cannot enjoy the variety on offer to its full extent. I am having to be more choosy.

The New Year, as a break from the old, will help me into a new way of thinking about my life. I will try to be healthier (more exercise and a little less of the good things in life - but I won't become a hermit) and start up my wargaming hobby again. A lot has changed for me this year, especially with the death of my father, and a lot more is due to change this year undoubtedly (I am yet again out of work - my latest contract ended on 23rd December).

I will be spending my time off reflecting on what I can do better both for myself and for others, writing more and catching up with my comic and wargaming habits (I have a lot to do for both of these). Depending on how things go, I will also be looking at the next tranche of building work that needs to be done in the house - namely my sons' room, a small toilet to walk-in-cupboard conversion and some plastering in the hall way.

I'll keep you up-to-date on these projects either here or on my wargaming blog.

Fleet Street Pub Crawl II

Fleet Street Pub Crawl 2 - 24th November 2016

MB and I promised a month or two back to complete our crawl of Fleet Street. We started where we left off and then moved further up the road. However, time was not on our side again and we didn't quite complete all of the pubs we wanted to get to. Another trip will be required to do the side-streets justice. We decided that we would call a halt at or around the Central Criminal Law Courts, and class the rest of the main road as another trip.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
145 Fleet St, London EC4A 2BU
I plumped for the same bar as last time (this pub has several bars on several levels within the building) as it was so busy in there. I was hoping to grab a bite to eat in here but had to settle for a bag of crisps as all tables were fully booked.

This time I was able to take in more of the ambience and do a little people watching, the highlight of which was that the famous parrot over the bar came up in conversation with a group of people. The Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch went through my mind upon its mention and lo and behold a couple of gents wound up one of the ladies in their party about the parrot being asleep.

Beers drunk on this visit :
Old Brewery Bitter (4%) - Sam Smith's Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire - a full-bodied, malty beer

Ye Olde Cock Tavern
22 Fleet St, London EC4Y 1AA
As MB had not been to this pub yet we decided to pay a visit anyway for completeness sake. We grabbed a pint and ordered a very nice meal in here to line our stomachs for the rest of the evening. It was not as packed as the previous time I visited with SH, but it was still busy. The bar staff were very attentive again and knew their beers.

Beers drunk on this visit :

Blindside (4.3%) - Truman's Brewery, East London - a fruity golden ale with a malty after taste

The Old Bank of England
194 Fleet St, London EC4A 2LT
A burger and a beer later we headed on down the road to our final port of call; The Old Bank of England. This is a pub I have been into on many occasions. Back in the 1990s I used to work just over the road from here and it was also the main port of call (outside the campus bar) for when I was out drinking with my university friends. Its a Fullers tied pub but that does not stop it from stocking a great cellar and a fantastic food menu (albeit a little pricy even for London).

It was very busy in here tonight, so we had to prop the bar up right in front of the main six pumps, which was a real bummer as there was all that beer to tempt us but we were on our last drink.

Beers drunk on this visit :
1) Seafarers Ale (3.8%) - Fuller's Brewery, Chiswick, London - a crisp. lihgt amber ale

Sir John Hawkshaw

Sir John Hawkshaw - 23rd November 2016

Cannon Street Station, Cannon Street, London EC4N 6AP
My train was late (again) this evening. Since the London Bridge restructural works moved from the Charing Cross side of the station to the Cannon Street side my trains to and from work have been severely disrupted. Tonight was no different but this time the delay was going to be a long one. I decided to grab a pint before catching the severely delayed train due into the station in about 40 minutes.

I plumped for a bag of Nobby's Nuts spicy selection snack (very tasty) and a nice pint to while away the dead time. Half-an-hour of people watching later and my train was due in. I was glad to find the pub open in my hour of need.

Beers drunk on this visit:
1)  Twelve Days (5.6%) - Hook Norton Brewery, Hook Norton, Oxfordshire - a strong, nutty, malty dark ale

A Meeting about Oktoberfest 2017

The Blackfriar - Thursday 10th November 2016
174 Queen Victoria St, London EC4V 4EG
On and off over the last decade I have been going to the Oktoberfest in Munich. I have been to about 6 or 7 events but recently the festival has dropped off of the calendar (real life has been getting in the way somewhat). Anyway, my Oktoberfest buddy SH (who I have been with to all festivals so far, alongside others who come and go on occasion) suggested we meet up to get next year's (2017) event sorted out. Flights are paid for and the hotel is booked; we just wanted a natter about the new hotel we will be using and what we may get up to next time.

We met up in The Blackfriar, just outside Blackfriars station. I have been here quite a few times recently as it has a great selection of beers on at any one time and is close to where I work. This time I went though, it was just finished being redecorated. I didn't notice much of a difference so it must have been more structural than decorative work that was done; perhaps that was why there was so much scaffolding outside.

We were going to have some food when we got there, but the tables in the small restaurant section and all those bar-side were fully booked for the hour or two we were in there. We decided to head on out to another pub, which is a shame as the food in here is very nice.

Beers drunk on this visit :
1) George Gale's Seafarers Ale (3.6%) - Fullers Brewery, Chiswick, London - a golden hoppy, malty ale
2) Hop Head (3.8%) - Dark Star, Partridge Green, Sussex - a golden, full-bodied flowery ale

Ye Olde Cock Tavern
22 Fleet St, London EC4Y 1AA
A quick stroll around the corner from The Backfriar and up Fleet Street saw us in Ye Olde Cock Tavern. This place is renowned for its food, especially its great pies. It was busy in here but SH and I managed to snag a table, a pint and a really nice meal before we had to head on home. 

There has been a pub of this name around Flet Street since 1547, with the latest version being built at this site in 1887. It was frequented by Pepys, Dickens and Dr. Johnson over the years, maybe because it has/had a great selection of ales (usually about 5 or 6 at any one time)? Any way, as we were a bit limited for time I chose an easy drinking session beer that went well with my steak and ale pie.

Beers drunk on this visit :
Sundancer (3.7%) - Twickenham Brewery, Twickenham, London - a golden, citrusy, hoppy ale